Saving the agriculture season in response to the food security emergency in CAR

Saving the agriculture season in response to the food security emergency in CAR

16/07/2014

“We are thirsty for seeds! Bring them and we’ll plant them! FAO brought us maize and groundnut seeds at the beginning of June and you can see that they all have been already planted and growing well”, says 50 year-old farmer Marthe Bogomal with a confident smile.

Marthe’s fields are located in a cleared forest area about a 30-minute walk from the road heading south of Bossangoa. In fact, most farmers around the country cultivate far enough from the roads to reduce the risk of looting. For the last seven years, Marthe has been the head of a women’s farmers group (16 members). Last year, all of them were forced to flee when members of the Seleka armed group swamped through the area to make their way towards Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic (CAR). Fortunately, she wasn’t attacked personally but lost all her belongings.

“We had cultivated maize and groundnuts but because we fled, we could not harvest, and the armed men had burnt everything, even our house. Today, I don’t even have a mat to sleep on the floor. But we have returned to our fields and resumed our agriculture activities. Farmers are always ready to work”, says Marthe.

The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) carried out at the end of April indicated that 45 percent of the country’s rural population (1.7 million people) is food insecure. Bossangoa, and the Ouham province in general, has been one of the most affected areas by the violence, where food insecurity has reached humanitarian phases.

Based on the results of the IPC analysis, FAO and the Ministry of Rural Development have made the Ouham province one of their priority areas in the country in terms of assistance. In the first cycle of agricultural kit distributions, FAO and implementing partners distributed tools and seeds (groundnut, maize and rice) to 14 000 rural families, displaced or returning to their looted homes in Ouham.

“FAO’s intervention in the Bossangoa area is crucial and we are really glad to see that it is already having an impact. We see maize that has grown up to the waist; rice and groundnut are also growing. Despite the conflict, I hope that we’ll have an opportunity to celebrate when the time for the harvests comes. It is so satisfying to witness the resilience of the hard working farmers we have assisted”, says Alexis Bonte, FAO Representative ad interim in CAR.

With more people returning to Bossangoa, the needs for assistance are growing. “I am an old man but I had tears in my eyes when I came back here”, says 59 year-old Pierre Guenam Nguere, who returned to Bossangoa in mid-June after he had fled to Bangui with his family for several months. “I had a house, a shop, 68 heads of cattle and a car. Everything was lost. I sleep on the floor. But I could not stay in Bangui without working. I had to come back to cultivate because that’s what I’ve always relied on for my livelihood. This is who I am”, he says.

Pierre is being considered to benefit from FAO’s second cycle of the agricultural kit distribution in July. After securing additional funding, FAO will provide short cycle seed varieties (beans, millet, sesame and sorghum) to assist 40 000 families that will also be able to plant during the current agricultural season. “We will continue to advocate for the development of the agriculture sector, the backbone of this country’s economy. We know that there won’t be peace here without food security and there won’t be food security without peace”, concludes FAO’s Alexis Bonte.